A recent report named Chiang Mai as the world’s best city for a ‘’beautiful bike ride’’, according to ‘Money Beach, a United Kingdom bike insurer.
The report commented that Chiang Mai provides the most picturesque cycling routes, with a thriving cycling culture. In addition it described Chiang Mai as home to competitive cycling races including the Tour de Chiangmai and the Inthanon Challenge.
The report ranked the second best city as Miami, followed by Paris, Beirut, Bristol, Cambridge, Barcelona, London, Dublin, Athens, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Bath, Florence, Atlanta, Seattle, Taipei, Warsaw, Berlin, with Oxford completing the top 20 cities.
That report got us thinking about cycling along the Royal Coast; centred on the city of Hua Hin. We wondered is there any chance that this location could be ranked amongst the best for a ‘beautiful bike ride’?
Seeking an answer to that question we caught up with local cycling aficionado and tour operator Chris Byrd. His company, Hua Hin Bike Tours, is owned and operated by Adventure Cycling Thailand, (a licensed Tourism Authority of Thailand Company) and was started in April 2004; aiming to organise and operate charity bicycle events in Thailand and Southeast Asia. As the founder and Managing Director, Chris came up with the idea for the 1st Annual Tour de Thailand on August 4th, 2003 and he completed a 3,200 KM solo bicycle journey covering Thailand from Hat Yai to Chiang Rai.
We have also been able to meet another cycling advocate, Gary Marshall, CEO & Founder of Travel Daily Media, a major travel industry publisher reaching an extensive global audience across 20 countries.
Gary’s recent visit and travels around the region is a sign that Hua Hin is becoming more noticed on travel industry platforms, a great sign for the future.
Gary was joined by fellow travel professionals Ruben Derksen, Scott Coates and Dan Fraser from the Destination Management Company (DMC). This organisation offers a wide range of services to participants and organisers of conferences, seminars, exhibitions, and incentive tours in Thailand. The Royal Coast is also on their radar, including as an ideal bicycle tour destination.
The group completed a 3 day 318 kilometre cycle from Hua Hin heading South to Chumphon during their stay, with Gary, who is based in Jomtien, commenting ”Life is all about the experiences we have and the people we do them with and this trip has simply been nothing short of amazing. Super beautiful coastlines – who knew there were so many long untouched beaches all along the neck of Thailand!’’
There is already is a thriving bike-riding culture in Hua Hin. In 2017, Andy Schleck, 2010 Tour de France winner, hosted a 70 kilometre Charity Bike Race for the first time in Thailand between Hua Hin and Pranburi Dam joined by more than 500 cyclists.
That event was managed by Thailand Cycle Tours, another premier Cycling Tour operator based in Hua Hin, offering multi day and single day cycling tours. Lucien Kirch is the founder and team leader.
Formed in 2013 by Lucien, an ex national tour cyclist from Luxembourg, Thailand Cycle Tours have taken many cyclists across the beautiful countryside of Thailand, especially the Royal Coast. The company expanded to have 3 full time tour guides and 5 support team members.
Lucien says “We take pride in taking you to the real Thailand, the small villages that most visitors never pass”
“I grew up in a cycle-crazy family in the small town of Ettelbruck in Luxembourg, where my father ran a bike shop. Myself and my younger brother soon started cycling and I participated in my first race when I was 12.
My friends included the Schleck brothers, with Andy becaming famous as a Tour de France winner. In my career, I was a member of the Luxemburg national team in the youth class and twice became Luxembourg champion.
In 2005 I discovered another passion in Thailand, a beautiful landscape, fine food, unique climate and pleasant people. For me Hua Hin is one of the best cycling destinations in Thailand, you can ride all the year and Hua Hin has the best temperature all year round.
In 2013, I decided to offer bike tours and founded the company Thailand Cycle Tours. I was lucky and the business continued to grow, Andy Schleck visited twice for tours that he led, including a Charity Ride with over 600 participants.”
Sundays we have a social group ride 70-100 km with bike rentals available. Further information is available on our website and Facebook page.
In October we will have our 2nd Fun Riding Pranburi Event and the goal will be to have over 500 cyclists again.”’
The local Mayor, Mr Nopporn Wuttikul, has led a weekly 30 kilometre cycling run every Sunday at 7 a.m., starting at the Hua Hin clock tower to various destinations such as Khao Takiab, Khao Tao, Wat Huay Mongkhol Buddhist Temple or the Boh Fai Community, until the dreaded Covid-19 crisis struck.
“As the Mayor of Hua Hin, I would like everyone who is over 30 years old to bike because it is a good exercise and an effective way to maintain health. Moreover, biking is environmentally friendly because it is energy saving and helps solve pollution problems.” said Mr. Nopporn.
There’s another very active group of riders, primarily from the expat population that aim to bring the enjoyment of cycling in Hua Hin to as many people as possible who enjoy getting out and having fun and exercise on 2 wheels.
That’s Hua Hin Roadies, with a Facebook page in that name as the main way that riders communicate to find out where the starting arrangements and routes will be. The group is for locals and tourists aiming to do everything they can to make cycling experiences in Hua Hin as special as we can.
As one of the organisers and clearly an avid bike rider commented ‘’Up at 2am to watch the football, England’s impressive 4-0 win which inspired me to jump on the bike at 4am to cycle 100kms to Pranburi dam then Dolphin Bay, and then run a decent 15kms at Pak Nam Pran before breakfast.’’
The first mountain bike track in Hua Hin, known as ‘Bhudharawas’ is also open for mountain bikers. Mr. Thakul Laukosakul, says that this track, exclusively for mountain bikes, starts from the top of Hin Lek Fai, overlooking Hua Hin city.
At a height of around 1,000 metres above sea level, bikers follow winding paths until reaching the Bhudharawas Buddhist Monastery located at the foot of the hill. This area is favoured by experienced mountain bikers because it provides them with a real biking challenge and difficulty at a world class level.
“With the support from of public and private offices, we believe that Bhudharawas will become an important venue for both Thai and international mountain bikers in the very near future,” says Mr. Thakul.
Location is an advantage where why the Royal Coast is a stand-out as a cycling destination. The ability for cyclists to bring their own equipment by road, especially from Bangkok, shouldn’t be underrated; it’s a much longer drive to Chiang Mai!
Another reason why the region is developing a sporting culture is about the weather and air quality. Cycling with high air pollutant levels result in warnings to stay at home rather than outdoor exercise, that doesn’t happen here. The region also has the lowest rainfall in the country with the ‘wet season’ rarely an issue for outdoor sporting activities.
During our recent discussions we’ve learnt about an endless list of cycling routes, often with designated cycling lanes to counter the dangers posed by traffic on the road. From Hua Hin that includes routes either north south or west. They may include scenic coastal runs alongside the ocean, visiting national parks, along designated scenic routes passing historic or religious sites or along less travelled nature tails.
The routes can be just for a few hours or over several days with many local resorts very willing to be a base for touring cyclists and to provide amazing facilities for rest, relaxation or recuperation.
So what is needed for Hua Hin and the Royal Coast to be recognised as a destination for ‘beautiful bike rides ‘post-Covid’? It turns out that the answer is – not much! It’s really all about destination marketing and for Hua Hin Airport to arrive on the international destination map.